Professional in Human Resources Exam

From Exampedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Professional in Human Resources (PHR) / Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)


The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) was launched in 1976 as an independent entity responsible for developing and administering credentialing examinations for human resources professionals. The primary certification offered by HRCI is the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) or, for those with greater experience in the field, the more advanced SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources).[1] HRCI was the outgrowth of a movement within the American Society for Personnel Administration (ASPA) to formally accredit human resources (HR) professionals. Beginning in 1972, a special ASPA task force studied the issue, and its recommendations were adopted to form the ASPA Accreditation Institute (AAI). Initially, AAI set standards and management practices for HR professionals and developed four different exam categories for HR generalists and specialists working at different levels of responsibility. However, they also allowed senior HR managers with verified credentials to apply for and receive exemptions wherein they received accreditation without having to sit for the exam. While the first exams given in 1976 encountered difficulties, roughly 2100 senior HR managers became accredited that year through the exemption process.[2] In 1979, AAI became the Personnel Accreditation Institute (PAI). A decade later, the PAI became HRCI as it is known today. Around this time, the Institute set a strategic direction to focus on certifying HR generalists, and restructured its exams to offer what are currently known as the PHR and SPHR exams. Computerized testing followed in 2004.[3] The PHR and SPHR exams are periodically reviewed and updated based upon current practices in the field as reflected in formal practice analysis studies. These studies use a combination of job task and responsibility questionnaires distributed to HR professionals, review of literature in current professional journals, and contributions by a team of experts in the field to determine the relative importance of each component of the body of knowledge covered in the exam as it relates to actual performance. The last study was conducted in 2010.[4] HRCI has certified over 145,000 HR professionals in a number of industries, working as individual contributor HR specialists, as well as in management and in officer-level positions.[5]

Function of the Test

PHR Study Guide

Professional HR certification provides working human resources professionals with a demonstration of their knowledge, experience, and commitment to their career in human resources. Certification exams are open to candidates who have the right combination of education and on-the-job experience necessary to fill responsible professional roles in the field.[6] In the competitive human resources field, holding a PHR or SPHR certification can provide candidates an edge when it comes to getting interviews, being hired or promoted from within for a professional position, and earning above-average wages. On the average, salaries of certified HR professionals are 30% higher than those of their uncertified counterparts.[7] Certified individuals report greater credibility, career advancement, and professional recognition as a result of obtaining professional HR credentials.[8] To be considered professional-level, a candidate’s work in human resources must include a certain degree of advanced level knowledge and skill, discretionary decision-making authority, accountability, and breadth of influence.[9] HRCI has a brief, interactive questionnaire on their Web site to assist candidates in determining which certification is best suited to their degree of education and experience. The PHR is open to those with a master’s degree and at least 1 year professional-level HR experience, a bachelor’s degree and 2 years’ experience, or 4 or more years’ experience for those who have not earned a bachelor’s degree. Requirements for the more advanced SPHR are 4 or more years’ experience with a master’s, 5 or more years’ experience with a bachelor’s, and 7 plus years’ experience for those with less than a bachelor’s degree.[10]

Test Administration

PHR Flashcards

The PHR and SPHR exams are given during two testing windows each year. The spring window (Exam Cycle A) runs from May 1st to July 31st, and the winter window (Exam Cycle B) extends from November 1st to January 31st. Application deadlines fall approximately six weeks prior to the start of the testing window for which a candidate is applying. The cost to take the exam is $400 for the PHR and $525 for the SPHR. Exam costs include a $75, non-refundable application fee.[11] Exams are conducted by HRCI’s authorized testing vendor, Prometric. After completing the online application and submitting payment, candidates may schedule their exam directly with Prometric using the link provided on the payment receipt page.[12] Candidates with qualified disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be provided with special accommodations on request for exams conducted in the United States and its territories or Canada. Requests must be submitted at the time of application using HRCI’s “Special Accommodations Request Form”, and include documentation from an appropriate professional verifying the disability and describing the accommodations deemed necessary for the candidate.[13] Candidates who do not pass the exam may retake it as many times as they wish, but only one attempt may be made during each individual testing window. Candidates wishing to retest must wait until the application period opens for the next testing window, and must complete the entire application process again, including payment of all applicable examination fees.[14]

Test Format

Sections of the PHR/SPHR Test
Test Subject Areas PHR SPHR
Business Management and Strategy 11% 30%
Workforce Planning and Employment 24% 17%
Human Resource Development 18% 19%
Compensation and Benefits 19% 13%
Employee and Labor Relations 20% 14%
Risk Management 8% 7%
Total 100% 100%

Test Structure

The SPHR and PHR exams are both computer based tests. They both consist of 150 multiple choice questions, along with 25 pre-test questions, a total of 175 questions. The PHR and SPHR exams have six major domains: Business Management and Strategy; Workforce Planning and Employment; Human Resource Development; Compensation and Benefits; Employee and Labor Relations; and Risk Management. Although they are the same, the distribution is different. Both exams allow three hours to complete all 175 questions.[15]

Test Environment

Testing for both the SPHR and PHR exams take place at Prometric Testing Centers. There, a valid, government issued, photo identification is required for admission. A secondary form of identification is also required, containing a photo and signature. Candidates are expected to arrive at least half an hour early in order to ensure enough time to check in and get settled. Personal items are not allowed inside the testing room, including watches, phones, foods, drinks, and bags. A locker will be provided by the testing center to store all personal items in.[16]

Sample Questions

More free PHR practice test questions.


Each exam is scored using a scaling method in which the difficulty of each exam question is rated, and the overall difficulty of each version of the exam is weighted to derive a scaled score from the number of correct answers (raw score). Since all items are counted when scoring the exam, there is no guessing penalty.[17] Scaled scores may range from 100-700. A scaled score of 500 is needed to pass the PHR and SPHR exams. Because scaled scores are used to determine the pass/fail status of each candidate, not to assign ranking, only candidates who do not pass the exam are provided with their actual scaled score so that it can be used for remedial purposes. Those who pass the exam are, however, provided with a measure of performance relative to the passing score (lower, slightly lower, comparable, or higher) for each content area so that they may focus their ongoing professional development on those areas that have the greatest room for improvement.[18]

Recent/Future Developments

Recently HRCI began offering “retesting insurance.” Purchased for $100 at the time of application, this optional insurance allows candidates who do not pass the exam to reapply and retake the exam for a reduced rate. Monies paid for retesting insurance are not refundable.[19]


  1. ^ HR Certification Institute Overview June 9, 2015
  2. ^ History of the HR Certification Institute June 13, 2015
  3. ^ History of the HR Certification Institute June 13, 2015
  4. ^ Practice Analysis Study June 13, 2015
  5. ^ Who Is Certified? June 9, 2015
  6. ^ PHR Certification June 9, 2015
  7. ^ Is HR Certification (PHR/SPHR) Worth It? June 9, 2015
  8. ^ The Value of Certification June 9, 2015
  9. ^ Common Questions June 9, 2015
  10. ^ Requirements and Eligibility June 9, 2015
  11. ^ Fees and Deadlines June 9, 2015
  12. ^ PHR/SPHR/GPHR/CA Application Process June 13, 2015
  13. ^ Accommodation Request: Special Accommodations Requests June 13, 2015
  14. ^ 2015 Certification Policies and Procedures Handbook June 13, 2015
  15. ^ Handbook 08 June 2015
  16. ^ Certification Policies 08 June 2015
  17. ^ Certification Policies and Procedures Handbook June 13, 2015
  18. ^ Understanding Your Score Report June 13, 2015
  19. ^ Fees and Deadlines June 13, 2015

External Links